Shelter Island’s Old Man McGumbus has been flying under the radar for quite a while. In the past this irascible WWII veteran and secret Special Ops consultant, who turned 105 this year, had been a constant presence in the Shelter Island police logs, but in the last year very little was seen or heard of McGumbus.
It turns out that McGumbus was more than under the radar, as a discovery made this week now explains his hiatus from trouble.
While digging in the Shelter Island dunes in the process of furthering a controversial beach-replenishment project, workers with the Shelter Island Corps of Engineers made a surprising find. Buried under the dunes behind Wades Beach they uncovered a large, fortified bunker. Inside the bunker: Old Man McGumbus, alive and well.
“The bunker is made of heavy steel plates, riveted and welded together,” says Shelter Island Corps of Engineers Chief Project Manager Sean Palfrey. “We had to cut our way in—there was no point of entry large enough to admit a human.”
McGumbus attempted to permanently encase himself in the bunker, it seems, Palfrey explains, adding, “There was enough dried meat product in there to sustain a man for 20 years!”
According to Palfrey, there are small portholes in the bunker for air exchange and to perhaps lure in the occasional rabbit to supply fresh meat. Palfrey noted that McGumbus also has an apparatus, probably NASA surplus, for converting urine into drinking water.
“We think McGumbus began secretly building this bunker around 1953—he seems to have completed work on it in 2014, at which time he must have had help sealing himself inside,” Palfrey says.
After medical professionals gave McGumbus a clean bill of health, officials decided it would be best for all involved to return McGumbus to the bunker and reseal it. The bunker’s exact whereabouts will remain a secret.